Whittier is located on the northeast shore of the Kenai Peninsula, at the head of Passage Canal. It is approximately 60 miles southeast of Anchorage. The community lies at approximately 60.77° North Latitude and 148.68° West Longitude. The area encompasses 12.5 sq. miles of land and 7.2 sq. miles of water. Winter temperatures range from 17 to 28; summer temperatures average 49 to 63. Average annual precipitation includes 197 inches of rain and 241 inches of snowfall.
The area of Whittier has served for centuries as a passageway between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm. The Alaska Engineering Expedition envisioned a rail line out to this largely unsettled area back in 1914, but it was the U.S. Army that made Whittier where and what it is. Whittier’s development can be deciphered in buildings still in use today.
The U.S. Army chose this wind-swept site as a year-round ice-free deep-water port in 1941 to serve in case of disruption of Seward’s port. Construction of a massive railway tunnel was undertaken to connect Whittier to the rest of the rail corridor. Anton Anderson served as the chief engineer of this unprecedented project, steering completion of the longest highway tunnel in North America in less than two years. Anderson is pictured at the 1942 portal of the tunnel that now bears his name. Just as rapidly as it was accessed, the Whittier Army Port was abandoned after World War II.
Cold War events triggered the reactivation of Whittier. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hustled to construct housing and indoor recreational space for over 1,000 people. The Cold War construction boom included 7 still-standing structures, including the abandoned and unstable Buckner Building and the maintained 14-story Hodge Building (now Begich Towers). The Great Alaskan Earthquake and Tsunami of 1964 left the Cold War buildings intact while destroying waterfront and rail yard facilities. The tsunamis also killed 13 residents. In 1972, the City of Whittier purchased the Cold War buildings, which house most of Whittier’s citizens.
Watch for the Whittier Army Port Historic District signed walking tour of these historic sites debuting in summer 2015. Accessible by vehicle as well as train since 2000, Whittier today is a popular launch point for cruises, halibut charters, sea kayaking and the Alaska State Ferry.
Prince William Sound Museum ~ A Tribute to Alaska’s Legends
Come inside the Anchor Inn in downtown Whittier where a small but fascinating museum gives a glimpse of Whittier's interesting history.
The Whittier Museum Association was formed in 2003. Over the last 12 years, the museum has built up a presentation of 25 exhibits in a 1200 square foot space donated by the Shen family at the Anchor Inn. These exhibits tell the story of Whittier's history as a military port and rail terminal as well as reflections on Alaskan military heritage during World War II and the Cold War. Exhibits include the story of the exploration of Prince William Sound by the Spanish Navy in the late 1700s; the saga of the US Revenue Cutter "Bear" at the turn of the 20th century; polar flights in the 1920's; the sinking of the S.S. Yukon in the Gulf of Alaska in 1946, and more.
The Prince William Sound Museum is a nonprofit citizens museum supported with admissions, grants, and contributions from the community. We are visited by people from around the nation and from virtually every corner of the globe. A review from one of our visitors:
"........I was amazed. This is truly a labor of love put together by the archivist and really deserves a much bigger venue. Really enjoyed the different viewpoints given on certain events. The Japanese occupation of two Aleutian islands is given from the American and Japanese point. Rare diary outtakes of the Battle for Attu from the Japanese doctor's experience are priceless. This is not your normal, look at what we did history, this is a history of Arctic exploration and explorers whether they be American, Russian, Spanish etc. This is definitely worth the time to explore if you're looking to spend a bit of time in Whittier" "Tripadvisor"
Admission is $5.00
Please click the thumbnails below to see a larger view.
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